It’s growing close to the anniversary of the death of my daddy’s physical body. I’ll never forget the day he transitioned to the other side -- the day my beloved daddy, M.C. Jackson, exited this world to go join the elders who had gone on before him...his mama, daddy, sister and brothers. His sister-in-laws, cousins, best friends, nieces and nephews.
I know Heaven was jumping on that day he showed up. "Hey Lonnie, is that your brother M.C.?" someone asked, probably Mr. J.W. or Mr. Sonny Boy. Uncle Lonnie squinted, I'm sure, as he tried to get a good look. "Sure walks like him. Hey Preacher, is that you?" Uncle Lonnie called out. He used to call everyone Preacher, especially Daddy. "Yeah, it's me," Daddy called back. "Is that you, Lonnie?" Neither waited for confirmation. Both brothers, no longer encumbered by aches and pains, took off running towards each other. "My brother," they both said quietly as they embraced. And before you know it, there came Uncle J.C., Comer, Tony, Aunt Georgia Mae, Big Mama, Grandma Georgia and Grandpa Lee. All celebrating. All laughing and pounding Daddy on the back saying, "Welcome home, boy. Welcome, home."
If I think about Daddy dying and the story becomes a great homecoming for him, well, how can I be sad about that? But more often than not, I think about his final day, and my final day to spend with him. Below is a poem I wrote to commemorate that day when my world stopped for a time.
Daddy went to sleep.
That was it.
No grand speeches.
No fond farewells.
No wink of the eye.
No “Hang in there, kid.”
I was expecting more.
I had prepared myself for one last
But there was only a quiet.
A final in…a final out…and then
My best friend closed his eyes
I know you haven’t left me, Daddy…not really. But sometimes, I just want to reach out and touch your hand. Feel those callused, rough hands smooth away the tears I feel on my face now as I write. Have you take those hands and rub away the worry lines on my forehead as you tell me to stop frowning or I'll get wrinkles for sure. I want to look into your eyes and see the love I know you feel for me even with this great distance that exists between us. I want to smell that scent that is uniquely you…Ivory soap, tobacco, sweat from your day’s toil, and yes, a bit of the dark liquor that we both knew you drank because your life was no storybook and oftentimes, taking a little “nip” was the only way you knew to cope. I want to feel your arms embrace me, letting me know that if every person on earth forsakes me, you will always have my back.
Daddy, I would never pray for you to come back from where you are…you suffered so much in your latter days, what type of daughter would I be to call you back, even if I could call you back. But I do wish you’d whisper to me a little louder some days. Speak my name through the wind so that I know that distant breeze is meant just for me. Fly over me in the body of an eagle, so I know that even on my worst days of missing you, you are right here with me just like you said you would be. So death, back up, you have no sting.
As late as the year 2000, according to Alabama law, my husband and I could not lawfully be married in that state because he is white and I am black. Of course, lawmakers reassured interracial couples from Alabama that we had nothing to worry about. No one would actually enforce such a law, but the bottom line was the law was on the books. Any racist cop with an agenda could have locked us up just for kicks. Since then, mercifully, the law has been changed.
Today, gays and lesbians await news about whether or not their love relationships will be recognized by the courts of the land. Through the years, just like with the interracial relationship issue, this civil rights issue has been made a religious issue. It should not be. In 2011, the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Kentucky voted not to allow interracial couples into their flock. You know, I don't have a problem with that. Any church that wouldn't allow my husband and me to worship with them is not paying homage to the same God that he and I do anyway, so our feelings would so not be hurt if the ushers did not welcome us in with open arms.Trust and believe, your congregations are "safe" from the likes of us.
Many of my gay and lesbian friends feel the same way. They don't want to “invade” the churches of those who don’t want them there. They don't seek to force you to marry them, if you speak hate against them. They have no desire for you to Baptize or Christen their children if you feel those children are somehow not as good or deserving of God's grace as say, a child raised by heterosexuals. In most cases, those gays and lesbians who believe in God already attend churches that are welcoming and affirming of their relationships and their families anyway. They simply want the same freedom that heterosexuals have which is to fall in love, get engaged, get married, have a family, retire, grow old together, and then, when the time comes, say goodbye to each other when it is their time to transition to the other side. They also want to be able to have children together and not worry about custody becoming an issue because they are not legally wed or one person in the union is not the biological parent. They want to be able to file their taxes together and receive the same write offs that heterosexual couples receive. They want to insure their loved ones because they work just as hard as heterosexuals do on the job and their loved ones should be entitled to their benefits. They want to die and know that their loved ones will be taken care of during a time when no loved one should have to worry about inheritance taxes or “eligibility to receive benefits” issues.
So, I write this not to change anyone’s mind. Instead, I write this post to simply urge people to love who you love and allow others to do the same. It really is that simple.